How Far I’ll Go…

Shoes, coats, school blazers, toys, films, flavours, ears… Vocation. Things that you can grow in to. Now, I am the youngest sibling, traditionally the place of hand me downs and “you’ll grow in to it”; but being the youngest of only two, being different genders and going to different secondary schools, my time of waiting to grow in to stuff as a child was minimal.

But, that last one on the list, that one I’ve been waiting to grow in to for years, and have a feeling I’ll be growing in to it for the rest of my life.

It has been over 10 years since my first conversation about my vocation. I was just a baby 18 year old, still at school, when I tried to express something I didn’t have the words for, managing to get some half coherent sentences out about “wanting to be a vicar”.  I don’t blame the people I had that chat with for using the old chestnut of needing more life experience, because I did! Granted, it had been only 2 years since my mum died and in lots of ways I had more life experience than people 5 years my senior; but in many other, vital, ways I needed to gain experience. I needed to grow in to my vocation, heck at that point I needed to grow in to myself!

And so, life carried on, and I experienced it, I moved away from home, and came back and then moved away again, then came back, then moved out properly. I learned hundreds of things, some of it in lectures at uni. Had jobs I loved, had jobs I hated, didn’t get a job I thought I deserved and got one I never dared to dream of. I fell in love, many times. Came out. Fell in love a bit more and met the one. Worked out who I wasn’t and tried to work out who I am.

I grew into myself, it took ten years and I am by no means there yet; I know there is more growing up to be done, I still laugh when someone says bum. But I grew into who I am becoming.

Five years through all that growing up, apparently it was time for another mention of the old V word. Someone asked if I’d ever thought about ordination, and rather than say yes and try to express a little more of what I couldn’t the first time, I told them they were mad. At that point the growing was painful. It felt like I would never and could never grow in to this increasing sense of call on my life, this endless tug to something that I didn’t understand and at that moment felt out of reach. For a little while I couldn’t get through a conversation about ordination without crying.

Cut to about 2 years ago, and the time finally felt right to try it all on again. To try once more, to express something that still doesn’t always make sense. To see whether the Lex that had done 8 years of growing in to herself was any closer to growing in to her vocation. And steadily, painfully (still), but with the help of the systems within the Church designed to help you make sense of vocation, I took a step towards what I had been growing in to.

 And all at once realised that it was the right size and too big at the same time. Because, as much as I’d grown, that’s the point of a vocation, it grows with you. There will always be room to move, to grow, to stretch and it will often feel like it’s too big for you. But you just have to keep it on and carry on growing.

It put me in mind of the song which titles today’s blog, from the Disney film Moana. Moana has multiple calls on her life, and ultimately hers is a story of realising that the apparently opposing calls can actually work together, and she needs to have a bash at one to realise she can grow into the other. She is mesmerised by the sea surrounding her tribe’s island and, staring out to the horizon she sings, “See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me. And no one knows, how far it goes. If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me. One day I’ll know, if I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go.”

It seems to me that the horizon is a lot like a sense of vocation on someone’s life. It’s mysterious, seems dangerous and feels miles away. But it calls to us to be brave enough, to get in the boat and chase it. And when we do, we will realise it is closer and further away than we imagined. There will always be more horizon, wherever we are in the world. And our call, our vocation, will always be bigger than us; as soon as we grow in to something it calls us on to more.

This little reflection has been prompted by the fact that I’m in the boat, about to set sail. On Monday I officially start training for ordination, in one sense I have finally grown in to  that vocation I first tried and failed to talk about 10 years ago. But what I know now is that I will never fully grow in to, that is the beauty of the call and He who calls. But with my eye on the horizon and God’s power in my sails, who knows how far I’ll go?

Today my prayer is for all of us as we grow into and make sense of the calls upon our lives. For those who are still trying to find the words to articulate it to someone. For those who have been knocked back and feel disappointed. For those taking their time to grow into something that feels impossible. For those for whom the growing is painful. And for those who find themselves in the boat, about to embark on new adventures towards the horizon. That we would rest in the knowledge that the horizon will always be bigger, that the call is beautiful and the caller is good. Who knows how far we’ll go?

Lex xx

Moana

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This is Me…

I turn three today. I know what you’re thinking, “Gosh she writes well for someone who’s just learnt to speak.” But I don’t mean that, silly sausages, I’m not really three. I’m actually an old lady who is rather worryingly close to her thirties. But while I am 28, I am also 3.

Today is my third birthgay.

Three years ago today, in one monumentally tiny click I changed my world forever and posted my coming out blog. (And then drank a bottle of wine, just in case it didn’t go well)

At the time, while I was certain that I had to come out, I was unsure of almost everything else. Would my decision to finally be honest about who I was mean I would be unable to follow a vocation into ordained ministry? Would coming out mean I would lose friends? Would I ever find love and marry someone? Would I ever have children? So many questions that I couldn’t answer, but instead of being stressful, as soon as I posted that blog three years ago, suddenly the pressure was off. Suddenly for the first time in my life I wasn’t living a lie anymore, I was living authentically as myself and that meant that, for the time being anyway, I wasn’t particularly worried about the answers to all those questions. Baby gay Lex was just happy to be out, breathing fresh air, with the sun on her face for the first time.

Over the last three years those questions didn’t go away, and some of them have only been answered relatively recently, but the beauty of living my authentic truth is that I knew that one day there would be answers.

So, did I lose friends in coming out? Well yes and no. There are definitely some people who haven’t really spoken to me since I came out, like I always feared there would be. But in truth, not as many as I worried there would be; I didn’t haemorrhage friends and family, perhaps more of a little trickle of the odd Facebook friend. But I have come to the point where I can answer no to that answer, because if my coming out is the reason that these people have chosen to eliminate me from their lives, then they were never friends in the first place.

Did my decision to come out affect my vocation to ordination in the Church of England? Well, I’m not going to lie and say that it made it easier, because it didn’t! The journey of discerning a call to ordination is always a long and tough one, and has been somewhat bumpy in my case. Being LGBT+ doesn’t make that journey longer and tougher per se, but it does definitely mean a lot more potentially awkward conversations along the way, and an extra area of your life being under the microscope. But I got there, and as of the end of November I have been recommended for training for ordination and will be going to college in September.

And the biggie, would I ever find someone to marry an ultimately have kids one day? Well that was the question that worried me for a while, and didn’t seem in a hurry to be answered. But as that ancient and wise proverb about two buses coming along at once reminds us, sometimes it all happens at once!  The week before I went to my three-day selection conference, I met the love of my life. And in a whirlwind romance to rival even a Disney movie, we are planning our civil partnership for April, ready to move to college together in September.

I always thought that it would be either one or the other. That either the church or a wife would win and the other half of my heart would lose out. I assumed that being the spouse of a gay vicar would just mean too many compromises and sacrifices for someone. That far from there being plenty of fish in the sea, it was more like trying to find the one person in a paddling pool; but I found her. And suddenly I know that for the right person my heart doesn’t have to be split in two, she loves me and my vocation, and it just works.

I don’t know if you’ve seen the film that everyone is going nuts about at the moment, The Greatest Showman. I’ve only just managed to see it (I spend much less time on my own in the dark at the cinema now I have a fiancé!) and I have fallen head over heals with the song ‘This is Me’. If you haven’t heard it yet, do yourself a favour yeah?!

It has become something of an anthem for me, I find myself listening to it about three times a day (if not more) and as soon as I heard the lyrics, I knew that with my birthgay approaching I just had to tie the two together and write something. I feel like I am able to finally say this is me, that I am who I’m meant to be. Did I need all the bits that came before me coming out to get me here? Yes, because they are what have made me bruised and brave and made me the tenacious little cookie I am now. But did I also need the three years since I came out to get to this point before meeting my future wife and being ready to take up my call to both ordination and married life? Completely. Because no longer am I scared to be seen and make no apologies for who I am. This is me.

So today, I pray for those people who are still being told by the world that it doesn’t want their broken parts, those hiding away and ashamed of their scars. I pray that one day every single person, in and out of the church, will be able to run to beat of their own drum and stand tall saying this is me. And on this, my third birthgay, I thank God for holding the plans even when I didn’t believe they were there. And I pray for the future, for my wife and my children, that we would find the place for us and know that we are glorious. This is me.

Lex xx

birthgay

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“Write hard and clear about what hurts…”

The title of today’s blog is a quote from Ernest Hemingway, and became something of a writing mantra when I first stumbled across it on Pinterest a few years ago. I’ve often said that I write to help me make sense of what I think, joking that I don’t actually know my opinion on something until I’ve written it down and had a chance for my hand and brain to process it together.

Except recently…

I’m not going to flatter myself into assuming that anyone who reads my blog has noticed it’s been quite a while since I last posted, longer than it normally is, longer than I wanted it to be, but the fact is that I haven’t written anything for three months. Well, that isn’t strictly true because I write all the time for work, but I haven’t been able to write here, write for me in a long time.

I’ve suffered times of writer’s block before, one notable period  where the way that I cured it was to write everyday for 40 days , but this felt different in some way. It’s not like I didn’t try to write my way out of it, I have about three attempted blog pieces saved somewhere and had a few topics buzzing round my head pulling at my arm to be written; I just couldn’t “do” my usual process, for all sorts of reasons.

It isn’t just actual writing here that I’ve struggled with though, my voice on social media has depleted to all but a whisper recently too. What used to be a useful means of connecting with friends, sharing work ideas and commenting on the humorous minutia of life, has become an irregular posting of the odd picture so that people don’t actually think I’ve disappeared. My process is broken and like a muscle out of practice it is withered and weak, like a voice after a time of silence it is shaky and hoarse.

But I don’t think I am the only one feeling like this at the moment. It isn’t a coincidence that the last time I blogged, finding it easy to process and write, was the day that Trump was sworn is as president. In the time since, the world has become increasingly dark for so many people, countless lives have been lost, the voices of fear and hatred are shouting louder than ever and I, like so many, feel at a loss to know what to say. Again, I am not going to flatter myself into thinking that anything I have to say would make the world a better place or serve to fix anything, but the light I hold, the voice I have, has been all but suffocated by the darkness and noise of the world at the moment; to the point that I can barely look on in desperate silence. Too scared to comment, too frustrated to try and explain, too exhausted to retweet, too out of practice to process it all.

So why am I writing now, why am I battling through the hardest writing session I’ve known in years to pen these words? Because I’m trying to do what Ernest Hemingway told us to do. I’m trying to write hard and clear about what hurts. I’m trying to learn to process again, to use my voice again. And why is that important? Because others can’t.

I read an article and listened to a podcast recently that both talked about the fact that women sharing their stories is a feminist act. To use the freedom of speech that I have, the education  I’ve received and the means available to me to simply use my voice is a feminist act because there are people in the world who don’t want women to speak, don’t want people from the LGBT+ community to share their stories; and so speaking up is an act of defiance and power. But more importantly if those of us who do have a voice can speak for those who don’t, those whose rights, freedoms and lives have been taken away , just maybe the story might end differently. Maybe the darkness won’t win. Maybe if enough of us use our voices, as small and frail as they sound when we are alone, together we will drown out the louder shouts of hatred and fear.

Our stories matter because the stories of countless other people haven’t been told. Our voices need to be heard for those who aren’t and weren’t. Telling our story is for us and it is for them. It is us telling ourselves, the story isn’t over, my voice is louder, defiantly sharing what the world might want us to stay silent about. And it is us using all we have to give some of our power to the powerless.

And it doesn’t even have to be writing, if that isn’t your process then don’t write it. Not to disagree with the great Ernest Hemingway but I’m going to change his words a little; write, say, sing, dance, draw, paint, photograph, run, play hard and clear about what hurts.

The world needs your story. Other people need your voice. Perhaps you like me are struggling to be heard right now. Stretch those muscles, clear your throat. Remember what your process is and stare hard and clear into the darkness of the world. Don’t let it suffocate you, dim your light and silence you.

Lex xx

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Rhythm…

We are told that it is going to get us. We’re told that it’s a dancer. We are even told that because of it we can forget about the worries on our mind and leave them all behind. And apparently if we have it, along with music and a girl or guy, we couldn’t ask for anything more.

“What is it?” I hear you ask. And the answer is that I’m talking about rhythm.

As someone from a relatively musical family, playing a couple of different instruments and someone who spent a lot of her formative years dancing, rhythm has always been in my life. It was the thing that you were either with or not, relentlessly pointing out if you didn’t quite know your notes or choreography.

But over the last few months rhythm has become something that I appreciate in a whole new way…

Let me tell you a story (sitting comfortably?) On May 6th 2016 I got up and went to work. I wandered across the road, met one of my bosses and we said morning prayer together, and then I went to school. That’s not the whole story though, let me tell it again and fill in some of the gaps. On May 6th 2016 I got up way earlier than normal because I was too excited to sleep. I put on a pretty dress and wandered across the road that was already lined with hundreds of people. I met one of my bosses and we were escorted into church by some police. We said morning prayer together, and then waited in church for a service that was attended by Her Majesty, the queen. I then went to school to see the queen again.  

There are countless other stories though. Stories about other days that haven’t been as memorable. Days that are just days, mundane in their uniformity. Or days that do stand out and can be remembered for less magical reasons. The tough days, the difficult days, the days (over the last few months) where I have been stuck in Berkhamsted while people I love have been ill and in pain somewhere else.

But there is a thing that ties all the stories together though and its rhythm. A rhythm that I have found and grown to love in the last year and a half, a rhythm that has been beating in the world for centuries and rhythm that I think has always been inside me, waiting to be found.

On one of the very best day of last year, when we were visited by royalty and on some of the worst days of last year, where I barely managed to be at work stringing sentences together, the rhythm of morning and evening prayers played on.

It isn’t simply saying the prayers that provide the rhythm though, it is the words themselves, there is a deep rhythm in the liturgys. Ancient words, words that have been said in the same way, in the same order for thousands of years, prayers that are as ever true today as they were when they were written. These words that are the same and will be said regardless of whether you are having a wonderful day, about to meet the queen and bubbling over with praise; or so overcome with sadness that you don’t even have the words to say.

This blog is not an advert for daily prayer, though there are certain people in my life who would literally be skipping with glee to hear my ode to morning and evening prayer, but I am instead perhaps advocating for simply finding rhythm.

Find your rhythm. Find those ancient words, that eternal song, the beating that is happening in the world and within you, work out where they connect. Find that deep place of rhythm within you, tying joy sand sadness together, holding them in tension.

On a day when so many across the world are at a loss for words, perhaps the deep rhythm of ancient prayers, of ancient stories of God’s faithfulness, of fundamental and eternal truths are the things that we can turn to for comfort and direction.

That’s the thing about rhythm, it goes on, even when we’re tired, when we want to give up, when we can’t imagine carrying on; rhythm goes on, giving us the strength to go on with it.

Lex xx

quote I love this quote as there is nothing I like doing better than listening to birds bring the dawn or sing at sunset....:

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It’s the last thing that’s holding me…

Sometimes, the way I look at the world is riddled with naivety. In my fluffy little head which chooses to not understand many of life’s complexities, there is the potential that many a wonderful thing might happen one day. I still wait, watching the skies for that ruddy owl with my Hogwarts letter. I still think that I might just win every competition I enter on This Morning. I maintain hope that one day someone will sweep me off my feet with a scrabble/ skywriting/ flash mob/ alphabetti spaghetti proposal. And I maintain the belief that some day, some how I will be plucked from obscurity and begin leading the kind of charmed life that Disney promised me.

I choose to hope.

I choose to hope in so many things that are the very definition of ridiculous and will almost certainly never happen, and the reason that its ok and I continue to hope is because they don’t really matter. You will know, as we all do, that it is so much harder to hold on to, to keep choosing to hope in something that does matter and feels so very far out of our reach.

Yet still, we must choose to hope. It’s the last thing that’s holding us.

This evening I was at a church service and the talk was looking at this idea of our lives being built on hope, that the thing that often sets us apart as Christians is our hope in something beyond,  our hope in someone greater. We looked at those incredible words of Isaiah 40, promising us that those who wait on and find their hope in the Lord will not grow weary, but rise on wings like eagles.

And it was almost like God poked a finger on my heart and said “Right there, that’s what we need to talk about”, in that moment I realised I had lost hold of hope in a couple of major areas. I’d stopped choosing to hope.

Those of you who have been reading these blogs for a while will know that a couple of years ago things went a bit, for want of a better word, tits up, workwise. The things I’d hoped for not only didn’t come to fruition, but felt like they actually were ripped from my grasp. It steadily got harder and harder to hold on to what was becoming a very slender thread of hope.

It wasn’t like the Hogwarts letter, the choice to hope that there really was going to be the right job for me one day; that God was continuing to call me to ministry; that I wasn’t really as crap as all the failed applications were telling me I was…really… bloody…mattered.

And it hurt. Every time I chose to hope, only to get clobbered a little bit more the distance between what I was desperately trying to believe from God’s word and what my lived experience was teaching me got bigger and bigger. To the point at which I find myself today. Things did work out, I took the windy road round but I now work in a place where I am happy, fulfilled and am able to continually work out and grow into this call to ministry. But that gap in my hope remains.

I’m at the stage where I am now starting to ask what next, this job has been wonderfully healing but unfortunately can’t last forever, and I am being called and nudged ever onward. The next few steps in the potential journey are big and seem really scary. And it’s like a spotlight has suddenly been shone on that gaping hole in my hope.

I believe in those words of Isaiah 40, I believe that when we build our hope on God we need only rest in him. But…

I can’t get clobbered again and so my hope for my professional life, for my calling, at this present moment in time only extends so far. Like when you’ve badly bruised yourself and hold the afflicted area really gingerly, my professional hope feels like it has been badly bruised so I can’t be as exuberant with it as I wish I could be; I’m having to hold it pretty carefully.

But still, as small and tattered and bruised as that hope feels, I must choose it. It’s the last thing that’s holding me.

There are so many situations in people’s lives where what we are told in God’s word and what this broken, fallen world seems to teach us jar, and can cause huge voids in our hope. Prolonged singleness, chronic illness and pain, remaining childless, broken relationships, unemployment to name just a few.

The truth of Isaiah 40 remains though. If we loose hope, if we stop making that daily choice to hope then we will exhaust ourselves. Our strength only goes so far and in the face of those situations where it is hardest to hope, we need the infinite strength of someone who doesn’t tire, whose hope can’t run dry.

I’m trusting that it doesn’t matter if the hope you have for a certain situation seems tiny, dented and fragile; that what matters is that choice to hope regardless of what the world and your lived experience may be shouting at you.

As I look ahead to the possibilities of the coming years, that tiny, terrified hope flutters in my chest, reminding me of all that has been and all that could go wrong.

But I believe that every day we choose to hope for those very situations where it feels hardest and most dangerous, those flutters will become stronger and our hope will grow. That one day we will realise that perhaps it doesn’t matter that hope is the only or last thing that is holding us, because it is in fact just enough.

So today, as I pray for an increase of my own hope, I pray also for those of us who have those tender places where our hope is held most gingerly. For those situations where the world is shouting at us to give up hope. I pray that we would instead choose to listen to the whisper of hope, that we would find rest in God in situations that feel exhausting and that one day we would learn to soar on wings like eagles.

Lex xx

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Turn It Off…

There are a few topics that, when I started this blog way back when (8 years for you pedants out there), I always told myself that I would never write about. The biggest and most significant of those being a coming out blog, but shock horror we did that. I also said that I’d never write about singleness or feminism, mainly because my potentially misinformed and definitely oversimplified two cents didn’t necessarily need to be heard. But I did find myself writing about both of those topics, and I’m not saying that my thoughts set the world alight by any means, but in the end it was a valuable exercise to write about the forbidden things.
There are a few other things on the “no blog” list that will probably stay there, but there is something that I have felt increasingly, uncomfortably, prompted to write about. Even after coming out last year, a blog about being an LGBT Christian was definitely something I told myself I’d never do. Partly because it was something I was still working out myself, but mainly because there were so many other voices already in the conversation, voices I respected, more educated voices with more years of experience both of being a Christian and being gay. But just because there are other voices out there, that doesn’t mean that I have no voice and nothing to say on the matter. And as I’ve said before, this is my blog and I make the rules. So here goes…

When I posted my coming out blog last January, in that one little click of a button my world changed in a very surreal way, because in fact nothing at all changed. Something that had always been true and that I had known since I was 10 was still just as true, nothing changed. But everything changed because suddenly it was no longer something that only I knew, it was no longer a secret that was slowly robbing me of confidence, happiness and identity.

Like I said at the time, I took so long to come out because, while no one ever told me explicitly that two of my identities, being Christian and LGBT, contradicted each other, that was definitely the feeling that I got and what I told myself. I’m not blaming anyone personally, I’m not blaming any one organisation, or book, or piece of teaching, it is just a thing that happened. By the age of 14 of three things I was absolutely certain: I loved God and needed my faith, I was definitely not straight and that these first two things couldn’t work together. Cue 11 years of misery, secrets and heartache.

But in the last few years important conversations have started to happen. Conversations between people who have one or both of these identities and suddenly there isn’t as much doubt over whether you can be both LGBT and have an active Christian faith. And it fills me with hope, enough hope to come out in the first place, but more importantly hope that young people today who identify as LGBT and are Christian won’t feel they have to choose and hope that steps towards even greater equality within the church will happen in my lifetime.

But just because the conversations are happening and just because there are glimmers of hope, that doesn’t mean things are “fixed”.

Back in May, I went to see the musical ‘The Book of Mormon’ with friends. This show is almost impressively offensive, definitely not for the faint hearted and about as far removed from your average musical as you can get, but if you can get past all of that (and we could) it is also hilarious, exceptionally clever and has some really poignant points to be made.

One poignant moment for me was the number ‘Turn it off’, a song about the supposed Mormon tendency to try to deny any negative, problematic or “Un-Mormon” thoughts or feelings and turn them off. The oh so catchy chorus tells us: “When you start to get confused because of thoughts in your head, don’t feel those feelings! Hold them in instead. Turn it off, like a light switch just go click! It’s a cool little Mormon trick! We do it all the time. When you’re feeling certain feels that just don’t feel right, treat those pesky feelings like a reading light and turn em off.” One of the things that the song says should be turned off is homosexuality, one character singing about his childhood friend Steve whom he realised he was having “really weird” feelings for. He is accomplished at turning things off and comes out with the classic line: “Turn it off, like a light switch, there its gone! (Good for you!) My hetero side just won! I’m all better now, boys should be with girls that’s heavenly father’s plan. So if you ever feel you rather be with a man, turn it off.”

I guess you might be starting to see why this song struck such a chord with me. I was laughing at this hilarious show and then suddenly it got me right in the feels. I was hit by so many of the lyrics of this song because it was so close to how I lived for 15 years, I thought I had a “Curable curse” and tried to turn my feelings off. I tried to “imagine that your brain is made of tiny boxes, and find a box marked gay and CRUSH IT!” and I know of so many others who have tried to do that too. I can’t speak for the Church of LDS (I don’t know any real life Mormons) and I can’t speak for the whole of the evangelical church or for every gay Christian, but I can speak for me and I know that I spent far too long trying to turn off certain feelings (like a light switch) because I thought they had no place alongside my Christian faith.

I’m currently reading a book called ‘Far from the Tree’, about what the author refers to as horizontal identities. Things, medical conditions and life experiences, that some children and later adults will have as part of their identity that have very little to do with their family or genetics, for example having autism, committing crimes or being LGBT. In the opening chapter I found this thought: “In the Gnostic gospel of St Thomas, Jesus says ‘If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.’ When I run up against the anti-gay positions of modern religious bodies, I often wish that St Thomas’ words were canonical because his message embraces many of us with horizontal identities. Keeping the homosexuality locked away within me nearly destroyed me, and bringing it forth has nearly saved me.”

These two sources, one a ridiculously rude musical and the other a very sensible book on psychology, seem to me to be trying to say the same thing. The things that I finally learnt just over a year and a half ago.

There are always going to be things within us that we feel don’t line up with the way that the world, our families and even we think we should behave. There will be things we think we can’t feel or say as a Christian.

But if the lessons I learnt from 15 years in the closet and from The Book of Mormon taught me anything, it is that God is bigger than homosexuality, God is bigger than almost anything we can throw at him. And we can try to turn it off, thinking something is too big, too messy, too inappropriate to think or feel. But that has the danger of potentially destroying us, throwing our lives into shame and secrecy. Or we can bring it forth, share it with God and watch him do what he does, see him bring beauty from ashes, realise that the thing we always thought counted us out of the kingdom, could be the very thing that makes us loved and lovely.

Later on in the same book I mentioned earlier we read, “Jared Spurbeck, an autistic adult, thought his own quirks were a sign of sinfulness when he was growing up in the Mormon faith; when he started reading about gay Mormons, he found their experience much the same as his. ‘I couldn’t ignore the parallels between autism and homosexuality. Once I’d accepted the one, I couldn’t not accept the other.”

Probably it’s not a matter of sexuality for you (although maybe it is), but what that quote from Jared Spurbeck illustrates is that most of us will have something which we feel needs to be turned off, something that if we push down and deny has the potential to destroy part of our identity.

Maybe today is the day to turn the light on instead, bring something forth from within you, and know that because of, not in spite of, your quirks, foibles and shady patches you are loved and lovely.

Lex xx

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Magic Words & Big Hands…

If there is one thing that I both appreciated for me personally and wanted to take with me into practice professionally from my time at uni, it was something that my favourite tutor did. She had a very specific way of saying “Ok”. Not every time she said it and not on all occasions, but this special way of saying that tiny word taught me so much about pastoral care and ministry.

I can’t quite explain the way it was said and I don’t think I would have picked up on it from a  professional point of view, had I not experienced it first hand as someone who required a fair bit of looking after during my three years studying. But when she said “Ok” in that special way she, in spite of saying only two syllables, was actually saying so much more.

She was saying: I see you in your mess, I see your pain, I’m not shocked by what you’re saying, we can handle what’s going on, there is a way out and things will be ok in some way or another. So much crammed into that one little word.

The reason that I’ve been thinking about that “Ok” (and can hear it perfectly in my head in spite of having not actually heard it in almost 4 years (Gosh!)) is because I’ve been reflecting on that element of pastoral care recently. That ability to say so much by saying quite little, the art of making your meaning known when perhaps not needing to say it explicitly and having big enough hands to hold what people need you to.

A big part of my roles as an assistant chaplain and a parish intern is watching what my bosses are doing and learning from it. And because I’m lucky to be blessed with two very good bosses who take the time to reflect on the things I’m learning with me, this is something we’ve been talking about recently. One of them says that what makes them a good minister is their ability to listen to people without feeling the need to fix everything. That may sound harsh, but so very often effective pastoral care is not actually in the fixing of people’s problems, but holding people’s pain or confusion as they work out what to do about the problem themselves.

That’s where the big hands come in. In ministry I believe you need to have hands that are always open and ready and spread wide enough to catch and hold the biggest of messes. Hands that aren’t itching to put the mess down to try and fix and tidy it up. Hands that will hold, not shocked by the pain or put off by the mess. Just open, steady hands.

I don’t know if you watch ‘Call the Midwife’ (Babies, nuns and plenty  of storyline to make you weep… what’s not to love?!), but it is one my favourite programmes and is often full to the brim with some beautiful little chunks of profundity and theology. On Sunday in the first episode of this new series, a baby, Susan, was born with some significant deformities. The episode looked at how the medical staff in the 60s handled births like this and how it was still so difficult to be born in the 60s if you were different mentally or physically. But the scene that got me both weeping and itching to write this week,  was the scene where Susan’s mum meets and holds her daughter for the first time. She holds this tiny little bundle in her arms and slowly unwraps Susan’s blanket, taking in her missing limbs for the first time. Through tears she says to her tiny daughter “Oh my love… what a mess… it’s ok, we’ll sort something.” A response so different to Susan’s dad’s initial fear and anger.

What do my tutor’s “Ok” and Susan’s mum’s “Oh my love” have in common? They both accept the situation for the pain and the mess that is real. It’s not belittling things and pretending it’s not happening, sweeping the hurt under the carpet. But rather identifying what is wrong and being able to hold all the pain and hurt in one fell swoop of some carefully chosen words. Not expecting that you will be able to fix everything, focussing on finding the solution. But rather focussing on the hurting person and holding them steadily in that place with your words.

As I continue to reflect on this, it is teaching me so much about ministering to people and caring for them pastorally as this points to and shows us such a model of the way God graciously deals with us.

In our sin and shame we must seem like this sorry, messy  little lump of pain and hurt to God, and as much as our sin hurts him he doesn’t sweep over it like it’s not there. But there is also no judgement or shock there either. There are simply words of  grace, words of forgiveness, words of love and ultimately hands big enough to hold us together as we make sense of what to do next.

There isn’t really a hugely profound point I want to make this evening, I’m simply writing to make sense of what it is that I am still learning about and thinking through. Reflecting on how an experience of life in the past and life now have come together with something in the media to open my eyes anew to something of God, as is so often the case!

But perhaps you need to hear those words today, for your situation at the moment. Perhaps life is a right old mess and you don’t really know what to do. Today, I would pray that you hear those words from God, or a friend (or both!). That you would hear that “Ok” and know that they see you, they see the pain and hurt and that they have hands big and steady enough to hold you in that moment.

Lex xx

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Day 25: Happy Christmas…

MERRY CHRISTMAS!! If you stayed with this Blogmas all the way, you deserve a good break over the festive period! 

I pray that your day is full of joy, love and fun! 

To celebrate Christmas day, let’s watch one of the best Christmas videos ever made. I watched this for seven services this year and I’m still jot bored of it yet! 

Merry Christmas!

Lex xx

Blogmas Day No 25

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Day 24: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, well apart from Lily… cos she does whatever the hell she wants .

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

Because that’s where they’ve always been hung and if you have a fireplace, why not?!

 

The child (is 26 a child?) was nestled all snug in her bed,

While visions of Boxsets danced in her head.

And Gill and Colin tucked up in pajama trews,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s snooze.

 

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Was it next door’s cat again?

Oh no, that’s right in the summer he went to Kitty heaven.

 

The moon on the breast (smirk) of the snowless ground

Was a bit too bright and annoying, rude moon!

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

 

With a little old driver, pulling a festive trunk,

I knew in a moment I must be very drunk.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

 

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!

We don’t have a porch, nor a garden wall.

So they tried to land and had a great fall.

 

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

I thought it could have been a birdy,

Like when they drop bread down the chimney.

 

But in came Santa in read head to foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot (mucky pup).

A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,

But stopped at the mince pies to have a snack

 

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

He had a great big bushy beard,

This was all getting a bit weird.

 

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

I told him the house was a no smoking,

I really did mean it, no I wasn’t joking.

 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, cos fat people are funny.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Made me feel a bit uncomfortable and I asked him not to wink at me.

 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings, and started to twerk.

And pushing his finger inside of his nose,

He gave it a pick, up the chimney he rose!

 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a cry,

Not concerned that deer really don’t fly,

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Lex xx

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Day 23: Dear Santa…

Dear Santa,

I know we haven’t spoken in years. That’s my fault, I stopped writing, I changed. I’m sorry.

I haven’t left you treats out in ages, haven’t tried to stay awake to listen out for you. I guess when I stopped writing, I stopped believing that you would really come. Again that’s my fault, my bad.

How have you been? Still in the same job? Reindeer keeping well?

Anyway, I guess I’m writing to say that while we’ve both moved on, I’m older now, there is this new little guy in our family who needs to get to know about you, he met you this year in a garden centre (you did always hang out in some weird places, remember when you were at MK library?!) Anyway, Noah’s too young to write you letters yet, but he’s definitely on the nice list, make sure he has a great Christmas?

I kinda miss you Santa, Christmases were always extra magical when you were part of them. I might leave you a sherry out, you know, for old time’s sake…

Lex xx

P.s. Let’s enjoy this Santa themed classic from Veggie tales…

Blogmas (7)

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